The simulators, should they exist, do not appear to reward belief or worship. We have no reason to regard them as moral authorities, and they do not intervene, with or without appeals. Plus, while the simulators can presumably access all of the data in the simulation, that doesn't mean that they would be able to keep track of it, or predict the results should they interfere in a chaotic system, so there's no reason to suppose that they're functionally omniscient. Unless the superordinate reality is different in some very fundamental ways, it's impossible ... (read more)

it's impossible to predict what happens in chaotic systems in our universe in advance with precision, without actually running the simulation,

Yes, this precisely is the primary utility for the creator.

But humans do this too, for intelligence is all about simulation. We created computers to further amplify our simulation/intelligence.

I agree mostly with what you're saying, but let me clarify. I am fully aware of the practical limitations, by functionally omniscient, I meant they can analyze and observe any aspect of the simulation from a variety of per... (read more)

2JoshuaZ9yIf one can pause a simulation and run it backwards or make multiple copies of a simulation, then from our perspective for many purposes the simulators will be omniscient. There might be still some limits in that regard (for example if they are bound to only do computable operations then they will be limited in what math they can do.) Also, if a simulator wants a specific outcome, and there's some random aspect in the simulation (such as from quantum mechanical effects) they could run the simulation multiple times until they got a result they wanted. This isn't quite true. As I understand it, there are very few results asserting minimal computational complexity of chaotic systems. The primary problem with chaotic systems is that predicting their behavior becomes very difficult if one has anything less than perfect accuracy because very similar initial conditions s can diverge in long-term behavior. That doesn't say much about how hard things are to compute if you have perfect information.

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments


Many folk here on LW take the simulation argument (in its more general forms) seriously. Many others take Singularitarianism1 seriously. Still others take Tegmark cosmology (and related big universe hypotheses) seriously. But then I see them proceed to self-describe as atheist (instead of omnitheist, theist, deist, having a predictive distribution over states of religious belief, et cetera), and many tend to be overtly dismissive of theism. Is this signalling cultural affiliation, an attempt to communicate a point estimate, or what?

I am especially confused that the theism/atheism debate is considered a closed question on Less Wrong. Eliezer's reformulations of the Problem of Evil in terms of Fun Theory provided a fresh look at theodicy, but I do not find those arguments conclusive. A look at Luke Muehlhauser's blog surprised me; the arguments against theism are just not nearly as convincing as I'd been brought up to believe2, nor nearly convincing enough to cause what I saw as massive overconfidence on the part of most atheists, aspiring rationalists or no.

It may be that theism is in the class of hypotheses that we have yet to develop a strong enough practice of rationality to handle, even if the hypothesis has non-negligible probability given our best understanding of the evidence. We are becoming adept at wielding Occam's razor, but it may be that we are still too foolhardy to wield Solomonoff's lightsaber Tegmark's Black Blade of Disaster without chopping off our own arm. The literature on cognitive biases gives us every reason to believe we are poorly equipped to reason about infinite cosmology, decision theory, the motives of superintelligences, or our place in the universe.

Due to these considerations, it is unclear if we should go ahead doing the equivalent of philosoraptorizing amidst these poorly asked questions so far outside the realm of science. This is not the sort of domain where one should tread if one is feeling insecure in one's sanity, and it is possible that no one should tread here. Human philosophers are probably not as good at philosophy as hypothetical Friendly AI philosophers (though we've seen in the cases of decision theory and utility functions that not everything can be left for the AI to solve). I don't want to stress your epistemology too much, since it's not like your immortal soul3 matters very much. Does it?

Added: By theism I do not mean the hypothesis that Jehovah created the universe. (Well, mostly.) I am talking about the possibility of agenty processes in general creating this universe, as opposed to impersonal math-like processes like cosmological natural selection.

Added: The answer to the question raised by the post is "Yes, theism is wrong, and we don't have good words for the thing that looks a lot like theism but has less unfortunate connotations, but we do know that calling it theism would be stupid." As to whether this universe gets most of its reality fluid from agenty creators... perhaps we will come back to that argument on a day with less distracting terminology on the table.



1 Of either the 'AI-go-FOOM' or 'someday we'll be able to do lots of brain emulations' variety.

2 I was never a theist, and only recently began to question some old assumptions about the likelihood of various Creators. This perhaps either lends credibility to my interest, or lends credibility to the idea that I'm insane.

Or the set of things that would have been translated to Archimedes by the Chronophone as the equivalent of an immortal soul (id est, whatever concept ends up being actually significant).